The waiting is the hardest part

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It’s easy to get into debt at the speed of digital, but getting out can be a much slower pace.

The waiting is the hardest part. – Tom Petty

There’s a secret I want to tell you about getting out of debt with intensity: it’s boring.

For me, that can be a stressful. My day is usually filled with lots of chaos, but in a good way. My job is fast-paced, and my mind is constantly stimulated with exciting projects, deadlines, and challenges.

But no matter how quickly the day goes, the paychecks still only come in at regular intervals. The cycle goes like this: work, get paid, then pay on the debt with every paycheck. After the money has been processed with the bank holding the student loan, the process is complete. Repeat.

Since I’m paid twice a month, it can make the whole thing just feel slow.

I want to get this over with. I am angry. I want to be done now. But that’s not how this works. We have to be diligent, and we also have to be patient (a little).

This week I’ve had anxiety about the process. I started thinking about retirement, saving for college, getting a house someday, replacing the cars, and family vacations, and … Ugh!

Getting out of debt is a lot like trying to lose weight. It is so easy to put on weight (at least, for me). All I have to do is mindlessly eat and give myself no restrictions, then magically one day my clothes don’t fit anymore.

Debt isn’t any different. All I have to do is mindless spend without restrictions, and just like that I can wander into debt — or at the very least — spending everything I have on things that are frivolous and detrimental to my overall financial health.

I have to constantly remind myself to slow down, take a mental break, and breathe. This is happening. We are working a plan. The plan is going to succeed, and it’s going to succeed this year. Calm down, Eric.

That’s not to say I’m not trying other things to get the ball rolling a little faster. I am working on a freelancing gig, but the money won’t be rolling in for awhile. We will likely get something with our tax returns, and we have an appointment with our tax preparer for Feb. 19 to do our taxes. I am constantly looking for ways to save a dollar here, or gain a dollar there.

Move forward, wait. Move forward some more, wait.

Generally speaking, I’m a calm person. I tend to think that whatever happens in life, most often everything is going to work out fine. That all goes out the window when I’m dead set on a goal. It consumes me, and when progress doesn’t happen as fast as I want it, I start to break down.

I wish there was some magical way to get this last leg of our debt snowball done. But there’s no white knight coming. We have to do the work, we have to be mindful in our spending, we have to patient.

We are going to win the war. But these battles are going to be hard fought until then.

4 responses to “The waiting is the hardest part

  1. You have a great plan, but like you said, it takes time. The fact that you will be out of debt in such a short period of time is amazing. Few could do this either because their debt is so large, or because they just don’t have the determination. Even when the debt is paid off, you will have the same feelings, such as saving for retirement is taking too long; saving for college is taking too long; saving for a house is taking too long. Folks like us that constantly set goals are constantly worrying about achieving them. It’s just our nature. The only cure is to fake a disability, put the kids in foster care, and lay around drinking Natty Lite.

  2. The comparison to gaining weight is a great one. Gaining weight is easy and it always seems like it is surrounded by fun (out with friends, impulsively indulging, trying something new) and really they’re the same processes. Just taking a day of from health (physically or financially) that , ironically, snowballs into two days, or just a week or “holy s%^, I’m fat and broke”.

    Wake up, OK time to turn this around, I’ll hit the gym. Why do I only weigh 1/10th of an ounce less than I did two days ago? Why isn’t my flat stomach back? Why does my back hurt?

    Long processes. Coincidentally they both get tougher with age as well. I used to be able to walk by a gym and lose a pound, now if I look at an ice cream cone I gain 3. When you’re 22 your debt is a credit card bill or even $10k in student loans. You could literally get out of that in a few months if you work a second job because your expense for life really aren’t there yet. When you’re older and you’ve bought the car, bought the house, had the kids and have a life it’s infinitely more difficult. You can’t work the second job because you’ll miss your kids (or you’re just too tired). You can’t go to the gym for the same reasons. You’re bills have somehow gone from $1200ish a month to $4200ish a month and your partner doesn’t work because it makes no sense for neither of you to ever be home with the kids.

    1. I think the comparison is more akin to nutrition than exercise. It’s hard to out exercise a bad diet. And even though I’ve tried, it’s also hard to out earn hard terrible spending and saving habits.

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